Where the Heart Is

Two of Tulsa’s major hospital systems are gearing up to open comprehensive cardiac care facilities on their main campuses. With the new facilities, the hospitals have merged with established cardiac care providers in an effort to grow their cardiology practices, each attempting to make its facility the “place to go” for heart care in the region.
Saint Francis Health System recently announced its acquisition of Cardiology of Tulsa, a new venture named Warren Clinic Cardiology of Tulsa.
The announcement comes less than six months after Hillcrest Medical Center announced its purchase of Oklahoma Heart Institute in a similar transaction.
The Heart Hospital at Saint Francis will open officially on the hospital’s main campus at 6151 S. Yale Ave. on Nov. 9 of this year, and Hillcrest anticipates a March 1, 2009, completion of its Hillcrest Heart Pavilion at 1120 S. Utica Ave.
The two hospitals acquired their respective cardiology practices much in the same way. Both declined to disclose the amount of the purchases.
Cardiology of Tulsa, founded in 1969 by John M. Kalbfleisch, M.D., has been working collaboratively with Warren Clinic and in Saint Francis since its inception, said Jim Kaltenbacher, Warren Clinic senior vice president. Warren Clinic’s acquisition of the group formalizes their relationship, he explained.
“Here, you’ve got two great leaders, with Saint Francis on the hospital/healthcare system side, and COT, which has been a regional leader in cardiology since Dr. Kalbfleisch founded the organization, and now they’ve formalized that relationship with this agreement,” said Kaltenbacher.
Before the acquisition, Kaltenbacher said, COT was an independent practice operating within and with medical staff privileges at St. Francis.
Operating under Warren Clinic will afford COT access to Warren Clinic’s legal and risk management, marketing and advertising, human resources and IT departments, Kaltenbacher explained.
“Now they can be part of a large system instead of a small group, where they had to do everything themselves or contract with different companies to do that for them,” Kaltenbacher said.
The merger will benefit Warren Clinic because it will improve their attempts at physician recruitment, he said.
“Recruiting physicians into a large group is a lot easier than recruiting them into a small group,” Kaltenbacher said. Nineteen cardiologists work at Warren Clinic Cardiology of Tulsa.
Steve Dobbs, chief executive officer of Hillcrest, named the same reasons for the hospital’s merger with OHI.
OHI has operated independently within Hillcrest since 1986, and the cardiac care provider was integral in the planning stages of the Heart Pavilion, Dobbs said.
“We had discussions with OHI about acquiring them in the spring, summer and fall of 2007,” he said. “(We saw) the need to grow more cardiologists because of the demand in Oklahoma.”
Both Dobbs and Kaltenbacher cited Oklahoma’s poor national health rankings and the aging baby boomer generation as reasons for the demand for cardiac care in the state.
“We’re bringing in more cardiologists, and (OHI) feels very comfortable in that they’re continuing to do the things they’ve always wanted to do, and we manage the business side of it now,” Dobbs said. “Now we have a common strategy, since they’re our employees and partners, and we can plan together.”
OHI maintains its office at SouthCrest Hospital, 8801 S. 101st East Ave., Dobbs said.
Hillcrest now boasts 17 cardiologists, with the 18th arriving in January from Iowa and the 19th in August from Hawaii.
Saint Francis and Hillcrest will both open new cardiac care centers on their main hospital campuses, and both Kaltenbacher and Dobbs referred to a need for comprehensive services as primary reasons for the new multi-million dollar facilities.
The Saint Francis Heart Hospital was built in 2004, and the $70 million renovation will allow the facility to upgrade from 52 beds to 120 and to provide 10 catheterization labs and additional surgical suites.
“Having (COT) in the same offices with (cardiovascular) surgeons and heart programs at St. Francis will enable us to provide better care for our patients,” Kaltenbacher said. “All of our services will be under one roof.”
The Hillcrest Heart Pavilion is a $64 million project that will offer comprehensive services in a six-story, 183,000-SF facility. The facility will have 104 beds, 20 pre- and post-catheterization beds, a 24-bed cardio intensive care unit and a cardiac telemetry unit with 60 beds.
Kaltenbacher noted the similarities between Hillcrest’s recent acquisition and expansion and Saint Francis’.
“Yes, it is similar (to what Hillcrest is doing). It’s a similar concept,” he said.
And, Kaltenbacher admitted, “It’s very competitive.”
“Hillcrest will be marketing itself as the place to go for heart care; SouthCrest puts billboards up saying it’s the best cardiac program in the state, and, of course, we think we’re the best,” Kaltenbacher said. “We feel we’re going to have the best cardiac care program in the region.”
With an abundance of cardiac care services in the city, one has to wonder if Tulsa might someday be known in the country as the place to go for cardiac care, a heart hub of sorts.
Dobbs said he hopes Hillcrest will be a regional heart hub.
“Clearly, that’s our strategy. We’re going to be able to provide all the major cardiac (services) you need right here in Tulsa,” he said. “Of course, there may be some very specialized care that you need to go to the Cleveland Clinic (Heart Center) or the Mayo Clinic for, but there are a lot of things now we can take care of right here in Tulsa. And that’s exactly what we’re building, with the partnership with OHI and Hillcrest, for the future.”



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